When we think about experts in the pet industry we often think of veterinarians. These doctors have years of schooling and experience treating medical conditions for our pets. However, there is often a team of people supporting the animals in our care. Think of dog trainers, pet sitters, dog walkers or, less commonly, dog massage therapists, chiropractors and behaviorists. Each of these professionals play a vital role in the life of the dogs and owners/handlers.
Pet retailers can leverage the relationship a pet parent has with their pet care team by developing relationships with local trainers and professionals. For the purpose of this column we will focus primarily on ways to find reputable dog trainers, determining ways to collaborate and understanding the positive outcomes of such collaborations.
Pet owners seek dog trainers for their knowledge on how to train their boisterous new puppy to be a wonderful family companion. Dog trainers don’t just teach obedience behaviors, they also answer all kinds of questions ranging from grooming practices, the best ways to engage in play with dogs, and how to manage their behavior outside of training sessions. Dog owners typically see dog trainers on a weekly basis for lessons throughout the first year or so of the dog’s life. Because of this, they come to trust the information and recommendations their trainers make whether that is how frequently to trim their dogs nails, to how much exercise their pet needs, and of course product recommendations.
Professional dog trainers are perhaps the most likely to use and recommend a wide variety of dog training and care products including specific leash and harness recommendations, to favorite shampoos, training treats, chews, and toys. Trainers often research products and companies and develop strong brand loyalty for products and brands they trust. Because trainers are natural educators, they often share with their students and client’s specific reasons they use and recommend a particular product. Trainers often look to find convenient locations or online retailers that carry the brands they trust.
The simple fact is trainers are using and recommending products on a weekly basis to their students. By partnering with local trainers and stocking their most used and recommended products, you’ll gain access to a new customer base.
This is a two-way street. Most professional dog trainers are happy to have a local resource to point their students to for access to required or recommended equipment, however cross promotion of the trainer can be beneficial as well. Displaying business cards or promotional materials from the trainer in a resource center of your retail store can help them build their client base as well as provide a solution for your customer that may be having training challenges with their dog.
There is no single governing board for professional dog trainers, however there are many organizations and associations professional dog trainers my be a part of. Additionally, there are several dog training credentials and certifications available. Some organizations with trainers search directories to look at are the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. This organization offers several certifications for professional dog trainers and requires continuing education to hold the certification. The Association for Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association for Canine Professionals both have trainer look ups as well. In your conversations with dog trainers, consider asking the following questions to determine if their training philosophy falls in line with yours.
- What method of training do you use?
- What is your educational background in the area of dog training?
- What is some recent continuing education that you have attended?
- What equipment do you use?
- What are your credentials? Do you have any certifications?
Ways to Collaborate
Once you’ve identified trainers you’d like to collaborate with, invite them to share their top 5 products they use and recommend to their students. Be prepared to discover premium niche products to add to your current offerings.
You can also plan special events with them such as an “ask the trainer” day, or a customer appreciate event where you offer goodie bags to anyone shopping in store that day. Trainers can set up a small table to share information about their business and share any giveaways of their own.